Pacific Security Snapshot | 27 April 2023

The security stories shaping the region

  • PIF eyes bolstering Pacific Island Countries’ cyber defences
  • Australia releases its Defence Strategic Review
  • Plan ANZAC signed
  • United Kingdom Foreign Secretary visits the region
  • Marshall Islands signs bilateral agreements with Taiwan
  • Pacific Prevention Summit in Fiji discusses gender equality
  • Vanuatu mitigating coconut rhinoceros beetle outbreak


The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) said more Pacific Island countries have made significant advances in strengthening their cyber defences. PIF revealed that majority of its member states have already convened their national computer emergency response teams to bolster cybersecurity. PIF Director for Policy Paki Ormsby shared that regional bodies like the Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police, the Pacific Cyber Security Officials Network and the Pacific Transnational Crime Network have been aiding in the coordination and information-sharing.

Looking to the Budapest Convention of Cybercrime for guidance, PIF hopes more Pacific Island countries adopt national cybersecurity strategies.

Security Ties

Australia released its long awaited ‘Defence Strategic Review’ this week. Unlike recent defence announcements from Australia, such as the AUKUS submarine deal, the review and subsequent government statement has not prompted a noticeable response from the Pacific. Indeed, some Australian commentators have noted the few explicit mentions of the Pacific Islands in the review. However, the report does highlight climate change as a “national security issue” and speaks to Australia’s regional disaster response capabilities. The review largely warns of a “radically different” security outlook for the Indo-Pacific which will require Australia to fundamentally transform its procurement and deployment of weaponry and government resources.

Aotearoa New Zealand has undertaken its first Pacific Mission to the region since before the COVID-19 pandemic. Deputy Prime Minister and Associate Foreign Affairs (Pacific Region) Minister Carmel Sepuloni led a fifty-person delegation to Solomon Islands, Fiji and Tonga. Aotearoa New Zealand’s financial commitments include investing over NZ$20 million to youth projects and an additional climate funding of NZ$15 million in Solomon Islands, and NZ$35.8 million for the first five years of a decade-long partnership with the University of the South Pacific in Fiji.

Separately, Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand have signed the Plan Anzac bilateral security agreement. The agreement is intended to enhance interoperability between the two nations by increasing the sharing of intelligence and technology, along with strengthening joint training and capabilities. Chief of Australian Army Lieutenant General Simon Stuart said the partnership “will see both armies better prepared to work together to support security and stability missions, and humanitarian aid and disaster relief operations.” Following the announcement, the Army Chiefs of Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand visited Fiji and Vanuatu to explain the agreement.

Australian Chief of Army Lieutenant General Simon Stuart shares a hongi with a member of the New Zealand Defence Force. Photo: CPL Cameron Pegg / Defence Images

The United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary James Cleverly embarked on his first tour of the Pacific region this month. The Foreign Secretary visited Papua New Guinea (PNG), Solomon Islands and Aotearoa New Zealand. In Port Moresby, PNG Minister for Foreign Affairs Justin Tkachenko and Foreign Secretary Cleverly signed a bilateral Status Armed Force Agreement Memorandum of Understanding (SOFA MOU).

The Republic of the Marshall Islands and Taiwan have signed two new bilateral pacts. Marshallese Foreign Minister Kitlang Kabua led a delegation to Taiwan, where the two nations signed an agreement on the training and exchange of diplomatic personnel and a MoU establishing a climate change fund. In a meeting with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-Wen in Taipei, Foreign Minister Kabua committed to providing ongoing support for Taiwan’s inclusion in all regional and international organisations, including the United Nations.

Gender Security

The Pacific Partnership to End Violence Against Women and Girls held a five-day Pacific Prevention Summit in Fiji in April. The conference was co-hosted by the Pacific Community (SPC), the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) and the UN Women Fiji Multi-Country Office (MCO). Over 100 delegates from the region attended the summit to learn about initiatives that have been taking place in the region and the need for investment in primary prevention. PIF Deputy Secretary General Dr Filimon Manoni emphasised how gender equality is critical to the implementation of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, stating “it outlines strategic pathways and the thematic areas that will frame and guide development for our Pacific people. Gender equality and social inclusion is a key element of that.”


Vanuatu’s efforts to minimise the spread of the Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle (CRB) have been showing signs of success. Experts from the SPC Pacific Awareness and Response to Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle and Biosecurity Vanuatu are working together to infect beetle larvae with green fungus to reduce CRB population growth on Efate and Ifira islands. Averting a CRB outbreak is critical for the thousands of people who rely on Vanuatu’s coconut industry, with a 2019 outbreak leading Vanuatu to declare a state of emergency. The recent increase of CRB in Vanuatu is linked to the impacts of Tropical Cyclones Kevin and Judy, as damaged logs and coconut palms are the preferred breeding grounds for the beetle.

Children play amongst a destroyed banana plantation in Mele, Vanuatu after Cyclone Pam ripped through the island nation in 2015. Photo: Jeremy PIPER / AFP

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